Hire car problems are one of the biggest bothers for holiday makers going abroad. But it should be one of the easiest parts of the trip. After all, it’s not as if it’s a new industry. And the modern automobile is a fairly bullet-proof piece of kit.
However, with a lack of transparency over pricing, exorbitant insurance to cover excesses, punitive charges for fuel, and occasional blatant overcharging, some hire car companies can make a holiday memorable for all the wrong reasons.
Things are improving slowly. The industry has been ordered to clean up its act by the Competition and Markets Authority and its European counterparts. But although the key five players – Avis-Budget, Enterprise, Europcar, Hertz and Sixt – have all made changes, there is plenty drivers can do to protect themselves. Here are 10 ways you can save money and ensure you have a trouble-free holiday – at least when it comes to the hire car.
As with cheap flights, the earlier you book your hire car the cheaper it’s likely to be. Hire car cover company iCarhireinsurance.com found that people who booked their summer holiday hire car in February saved on average £100 compared with people who reserved it in June. There are last minute bargains, but booking early is more reliable.
Use price comparison websites to shop around for the best hire car companies. Prices between companies can vary by hundreds of pounds. Researchers from iCarhireinsurance found that a car for a week in Nice cost £563 with Europcar but only £313 with Sixt.
Buy excess insurance early
The rental company will charge an excess for cars that have been stolen or damaged. This can be thousands of pounds. They will offer you insurance to cover that at the rental desk. But this ‘super collision damage waiver’ as it’s usually called will cost on average £26 a day according to iCarhireinsurance. Buy a standalone policy for this while you’re still in the UK and you’ll pay £2.99 a day or £37.99 for a year’s cover.
Do you need sat nav?
Rental car companies will frequently charge up to £70 a week to hire a sat nav. If you have a portable unit in the UK, take that. Alternatively, you could buy a European map app for your smartphone. You may even find that the car has sat nav in it anyway.
Take your child seat with you
The law about child seats is the same on the continent as it is here. But rather than hiring a seat with the car which could cost around £50 a week, take your own. Many airlines will carry them in the hold for free.
Do you need to share the driving?
Adding a named driver to a rental agreement can cost around £7 a day. Work out how far you’re travelling by car. If the same person will be doing most of the driving, what’s the point of paying for another driver?
Do you have tyre and windscreen cover?
Check the small print of your rental agreement. It will probably exclude damage to the tyres and windscreen. The hire car desk may try to charge you extra to insure these. However, excess insurance taken out in the UK could cover these.
Have a spare credit card
Companies frequently insist that the price of the excess is held on a credit card if you don’t take their extra cover. Your holiday spending could be seriously limited by having £2000 already spoken for on a credit card.
Get your camera out
You don’t want to pay for any damage that was on the car before you hired it or the hire car company caused after you dropped it off. Photograph the car at pick up and drop off and make sure the pictures are dated.
Check your bank statement
It’s not unheard of for hire car companies to charge renters extra by mistake. As they’ve got your credit card details, this could happen a few days after you get back from holiday. Keep an eye on your statements so you can query any charges that you’re concerned may not be correct.